Since acquiring Pau Gasol last February from the Memphis Grizzlies, L.A.’s opponent for Noche Latina Tuesday at STAPLES, the Lakers had yet to lose three consecutive games.
Not once in 88 games.
Even though Gasol didn’t have his best game (13 points, eight boards), a well-balanced effort that saw the starters build a big lead and the bench hold onto it ensured that the record still stands on the heels of back-to-back losses in Denver and Phoenix.
While Kobe Bryant’s 31 points and Lamar Odom’s 13 rebounds, eight assists and six blocks allowed them to ice their knees in the fourth quarter, an unexpected source gave the Lakers a nice boost of energy off the pine. It wasn’t Jordan Farmar or Trevor Ariza, but D.J. Mbenga who delivered three emphatic swats, two silky 17-foot jumpers and even a steal in 18:44 of burn, much to the crowd’s pleasure.
“That’s just what I do,” said Mbenga. “I’m focused on helping the team any way I can, and defense comes first.”
“DJ is quick off his feet, he surprises people because he gets explosion,” said Phil Jackson. “He gets up quick, gets some blocked shots and did some things good on defensive end offensive to.”
Joining Mbenga with a solid bench contribution was Sasha Vujacic, who hit 4-of-6 second half shots to finish with 11 points, plus four assists, three boards and three steals.
The Lakers earned a day off from practice on Wednesday leading into Friday’s contest at Minnesota in their first full week at home since January.
Until then, a few numbers:
Assists on 40 field goals made, compared with Memphis’ 19 dimes on 32 field goals.
Blocked shots for the Lakers, who got six from Lamar Odom, three from D.J. Mbenga, two from Pau Gasol, and one each from Derek Fisher and Josh Powell.
Turnover differential in the game, with L.A. taking much better care of the ball. Memphis coughed it up 19 times to just 10 from the Lakers, who amassed 13 steals to just three for the Grizz, including four from Trevor Ariza.
Season-high rebound total for Josh Powell in 18 minutes of burn, complementing his eight points, two assists, block and steal.
Odom’s season-high block total in just 29 minutes of action. He added a season-high eight assists to his 13 rebounds.
Gasol brother earning a double-double, as Marc went for 17 and 14, plus four assists and three blocks, for the Grizzlies. Pau finished with 13 points, eight boards, four assists, two steals and two blocks in five fewer minutes than his brother, though the older brother wasn’t getting the benefit of the doubt as the refs allowed a physical brand of play in the paint in the fourth quarter especially.